Lawrie hits the front, but Langer still the masteron November 30, 2012
Paul Lawrie will take a one-stroke lead into the weekend of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Martin Kaymer is his nearest challenger. But both are shaking their heads at the golf played by a man they’re glad is not in their tournament.
“He’s killing everyone at the moment,” Lawrie said after his own 69 to lead on four under. “He’s like a machine,” said Kaymer after his 69 for a total of three under. They were referring to Bernhard Langer, who on Friday again subdued a Gary Player Country Club course that is behaving a bit like a grumpy bull elephant in the nearby Pilanesberg game reserve. But after 15 previous appearances on these fairways, Langer knows the secrets that lie hidden in the lines off tees and on the slopes of greens here. And he used that experience to sign for a 67 to lead the Nedbank Champions Challenge by four on nine under par. “Experience has a lot to do with it,” he said.
Lawrie certainly knows that. His previous appearance here was in 1999, when he finished last. “I’m a much more experienced player now, a better player,” he said after a second round where he relied heavily on his three wood off the tee. “I wasn’t hitting my driver well and this course is very demanding off the tee,” he said. Kaymer is a quick learner himself and understands the value of hitting fairways here. “I hit good tee shots today, which was key,” he said.
The main tournament is still incredibly close going into the weekend, with Charl Schwartzel (71), Francesco Molinari (71), Bill Haas (73) and Louis Oosthuizen (72) at one under, and defending champion Lee Westwood (73) still a threat at level par. But nobody was immune to mistakes on Friday. The hardest hit were the joint overnight leaders of Haas and Nicolas Colsaerts. Haas opened with a double bogey on the first and went out in 40. But the American rescued his tournament with a back nine of 33. Colsaerts couldn’t do the same. The Belgian made a seven on the par-five second and followed that with a seven on the par-four third to go out in 40 on his way to a 78 and a 36-hole total of four over. Justin Rose collapsed with a 79 to finish the day at eight over par. Less costly were the double bogey Oosthuizen suffered on 17, and the two double bogeys in Westwood’s round.
Even Jay Haas, who at five under is doing his best to keep touch with Langer in the Champions Challenge, was scratching his head at the modest scoring from the main field.
“I’m surprised they’re not going lower than they are,” he said after a 68 that was played at not that much more of an advantage to the main field in terms of the senior tees. Kaymer is quite happy with the tight leaderboard though. “It’s great. There isn’t anybody running away with it at the moment.” Lawrie agreed. “It’s still pretty bunched and there’s plenty of time for the guys who’ve struggled the first two days to come back on the weekend.”
But there is one tournament that seems as good as over, and that’s the Champions Challenge. With one round to go, even Haas is not that hopeful of catching Langer. “He’s playing so well and he doesn’t make many mistakes. I got to within one shot of him at one stage, so finishing four back is quite disappointing.”
By his own admission, Langer did make one mistake. “I went back to my old putter today. I used a new putter in the first round and was leaving putts short. The old putter was better in terms of pace. It was one of those silly mistakes to change it. But hey, you always think there is something better out there, don’t you?”